Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Once Upon a Time...

I was in a South African city. I can't remember which one. I was out with Sheree looking for (what else...?) an Internet Cafe.

Our course took us into a seedy part of town, lots of people standing idly on the stoops of worn out looking shops, talking and sitting and watching us.

We found two Internet Cafes. One was closed and the clerk in the other looked up and said "Not working," with a sad shake of her head. Many things don't work in Africa.

We were walking along the seafront and saw a fascinating old building: broken down with shattered windows that looked like broken bones to me.

I tried to photograph it from different angles, but nothing was working.

An old man came by and I stopped him.

"Are you from around here?" I asked.

He nodded. "All my life," he said.

"Do you know what this building is...was?" I asked.

He nodded, and stood looking at me.

I raised my eyebrows in the universal "Ummm...well?" gesture.

"I was born there," he said finally, looking at the broken windows, the peeling paint and the graffiti.

"It was a hospital?" I asked, seizing on the obvious.

"Yes. A hospital only for children. It's been closed for years. The government can't decide what to do with it." He looked at the building for a long moment. "Very sad to me."

The desertion of things, people and places in Africa make a strange kind of sense after a while. So many beautiful things are ignored and forgotten...so many lovely things are treated casually or allowed to stand and rot away...but then there are SO many wonderful things there you can sort of understand it. Most of these people are just trying to live through the day, to get enough to eat. Buildings fall low priority lists.

Still it was such a lovely old place: with a grand edifice and superb old world touches...

I played around with this image for a while. But nothing was working until I took a child's face and put it into the corner. This child was a student in a remote school not far from the seriously wild areas of Africa.

I loved Africa. There is something utterly mystical there. Maybe it's a vibrant quality in the air or the exotic nature of the people. Maybe it's the way you can turn a corner on a dusty road and see something amazing...or stand mere feet from an elephant or lion going about their business.

I loved Africa. I loved being there. Part of me still is.